That is what I thought about 83 percent of the time while listening (yeah, listening!) to Shirky’s book. I downloaded the audio book, and took breaks from the annotated bib by listening to this book. It helps that my annotated bib subject is about many things Clay talks about.
First, I must say, my favorite thing ever was listening to the guy reading the book read aloud the blog posts and Twitter posts of the “inane” users that Shirky picks out as examples. Completely priceless.
But this was my favorite thing I have absorbed in my time here.
The primary thing he seems to discuss is openness. That is the one word I would describe this book with. The aspect of open networks, open conversation and open information is essential to Shirky’s argument. His examples of how networks just seem to pop up, and then snowball into something massive would not be possible without the openness of communication.
What really shook me was the basic structure of a network. It is such an easily replicable method, and when we look around, we see networks everywhere. Interpersonal networks. Facebook groups. Message boards. And the same structure applies to each one. This was a “hold on, I need to collect the pieces of my blown mind” type moment. I just had never thought about communication in that way in an in-depth way. It was something I had acknowledged, but never studied.
So where does that leave us, the 21st century grad student? Well, we know how basic group organization works and how it relates to our potential field. But this isn’t enough. We not only have to understand how users and potential customers will react to the platforms we create, but we have to fully expect them to take the most advantage of what we make. But here’s the twist. Probably only 10 percent of these users will interact openly with us. But that doesn’t mean they’re the only important ones. In my time as a journalist, I learned that those who speak the loudest at us aren’t those who represent our entire readership. And Shirky helps structure that with his theory. Networks are always there, and they will adapt to their mediums. And we have to be ready.